Ads bombard us from every direction and never more so than the weeks between now and the end of the year for all the Christmas shopping every merchant is counting that we will do. It can be more than a little tempting and I can yield at times as well, but I try to only do so when the item is something I would usually buy from a merchant where I always shop. (I actually did that today when a shirt I know one grandson loves was on sale and then had a markdown on top of that for one day only. It brought the item to half price.) Other ads that look fun from sources I have not known before or items that are new to me don’t usually pull me in. I have already been known to make those mistakes before.
You don’t need to be very old before you start to notice there is a catch in that promise far more often than we might wish or suspect. There is always the fine print that most of us can’t or don’t take time to read that tells us a little about that if we can decipher it.
It’s little wonder we can feel challenges about grace and whether it really is what we hear it is or read that it is. The gift of grace is so scandalous, so costly, that we can more easily believe what Philip Yancey calls “ungrace” then grace.
The promise of grace seems too good to be true.
Phillip Yancey describes it this way:
“We are accustomed to finding a catch in every promise, but Jesus’ stories of extravagant grace include no catch, no loopholes disqualifying us from God’s love. Each has at its core an ending too good to be true – or so good that it must be true.”
As I prepare to attend a workshop on the book of Exodus, I am reminded again that God is the ultimate promise keeper and He proves it over and over again from Genesis to Revelation. No, we haven’t seen all that He says will happen because some of those things are still in the future but reading carefully from cover to cover will show his utter consistency.
Consider the promise God gave Abraham, a covenant, that from him and Sarah would come a people as numerous as the stars, a good land, and future kings. He even tells him how they will temporarily live in a foreign land where they will be afflicted for 400 years before bringing judgment on their oppressors so they will be released to inherit from Him a Promised Land. (Gensis15)
The promise/covenant is sealed with a sacrifice and a meal and then just as He said, Moses is spared and called to be the one God uses to accomplish this very thing. And God affirms his covenant promises again on Mount Sinai with an outline of the provisions. The people ratify it and again there is a sacrifice, a blood sacrifice, and a meal. And then God keeps making good on his promises.
Once Israel is established and wants an earthly king like all the other nations around them, David replaces Saul on the throne, but a bigger promise is fulfilled when Jesus is born so many generations later that many will question if He is the one.
Because our timetable is so limited in scope, we can be tempted to doubt or question whether the promises yet to be fulfilled will actually happen. That is understandable perhaps, but to do so is unwise since all the other promises have been accomplished just as He said.
So, at its core we wrangle with the promises and the Promise Keeper and the grace He offers to those who will believe.
Is it possible that one of our challenges is that grace is so personal?
Henri Nouwen puts it this way:
“God rejoices. Not because the problems of the world have been solved, not because all human pain and suffering have come to an end, not because thousands of people have been converted and are now praising him for his goodness. No, God rejoices because one of his children who was lost is found.”
And grace comes to us again and again once we believe in Him. He knows we will still keep messing up. Our performance will never be good enough. We need his perfect sacrifice.
A letter once written by Mutua Mahiaini, leader of The Navigators constituency in Kenya, Africa, and quoted in Jerry Bridges’ great book, The Discipline of Grace, says:
“Any moment when we bask in God’s mercy and grace is our highest moment, higher than when we feel snug in our decent performance and cannot think of anything we need to confess.”
What’s the catch?
We must believe to receive this gift, but once we do there is no catch.
Grace is that great a gift and his love is everlasting.